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Scammers Haul In Record $851m From Aussies In 2020

Scams cost Australians a staggering $851 million in 2020, as con artists took advantage of the pandemic to prey on the vulnerable.

In its latest Targeting Scams report, compiling data from Scamwatch, ReportCyber, other government agencies, and ten banks and financial intermediaries, the ACCC found more than 440,000 scam reports over the course of the year. More than a third of total losses – $328 million – went to investment scams, with romance scams coming in second at $131 million and payment redirection scams close behind at $128 million. Shopping scams pulled in just over $62 million.

Delia Rickard, ACCC.

Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the ACCC, says this is the biggest annual loss Australia has ever seen to scams, but warns the figure is likely higher due to the scams that went unreported.

“Unfortunately scammers continue to become more sophisticated and last year used the COVID-19 pandemic to scam and take advantage of people from all walks of life during this crisis.

“Victoria, which was significantly impacted by the second wave of the virus, recorded the highest losses nationwide for the first time and Victorians reported $49 million in losses to Scamwatch, more than double those in 2019,” she said, adding that scammers told prospective victims – particularly in car and puppy scams – that government COVID restrictions meant items could not be inspected in person.

Health- and threat-based scams, remote access scams, and phishing activity – especially via government impersonation – also grew as people spent more time online during lockdown. $176 million in losses were reported to Scamwatch alone.

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